Lent 2020 sample reflection - to give you an idea of what we did this year ...
The Solace of Fierce Landscapes
This Lenten wilderness, ‘2020’, has become quite a leveller, hasn’t it?
Without too much warning, we’ve found ourselves mostly in the same kind of place: held in a landscape that’s seemingly indiscriminate, devoid of frippery, and indifferent to our social status.
I’m reminded of that Banksy graffiti from a few years back:
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As Easter week draws closer, let’s not forget Jesus coming to the end of his Lententime in the wilderness, and standing on the threshold of three years' public ministry, hungry and luminous. And wilder, too, than some might like to think.
He spent his 40 days in a literal wilderness, of course, a fierce landscape, where little happens, and where the land is unconcerned with who you say you are.
And by the end of that long stretch, he relinquished all that might thwart his life of love to come: the temptations, in particular, to be a crowd-pleaser; to cash in on his gifts; and to prove to the world that he was who he claimed. (Can you imagine an ego-driven Jesus, by the way..?)
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Three years later, the adulation of Palm Sunday was never, surely, going to phase him, was it? The cheers would not rush to his head. Why believe the hype, after all, when love has no need of it.
When love has no need, whatsoever.
And there, on the Cross, those words again! Spat in his face, for one last time. “If you are the Son of God, come down!” One last, demonically futiile appeal to a non-existent ego he'd long ago surrendered in the wilderness, so conclusively.
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Here in 2020, it’s tempting, as consumers, to start a wilderness ‘experience’ like Lent by asking what it can do for us. We're set to finish in quite a different place, this historic time, with work dried up, perhaps, or friends who are ill, or simply as our boredom eats away the stockpile of distractions until there’s nothing left …
And though we’ll never yield with the completeness of Jesus to this, our desert, still we can learn from him: and leave it, when the time may come, reduced and yet revealed somehow more fully, in God's grace.
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For the indifference of the desert landscape yields a secret solace, too. Released from the compulsive need to be proved worthy, we are freed, at last, to accept ourselves (and thus, each other), as God accepts us, through Jesus: without exception, or condition.
And in return, what a prospect! We can accept God, most deeply in our hearts - precisely not because he turns our stones to bread; or promises the Earth if only we bow down; or proves to all that he is ‘Lord’ …
Instead, most radically, graciously, simply and disarmingly: we are freed to love God just as freely, and as generously, as God himself loves us.
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May you love, and be loved, today.